Hopped over to the JEA listserve thing morning and picked up on a thread called “Fighting for Newspapers.” Now a lot of papers take part in something called NIE/Newspapers in Education. Companies and just plain folks donate subscriptions to their local schools and people on vacation allow their subscriptions to be sent to their local schools so teachers can use the papers as a teaching tool – and not just for journalism. Social studies teachers, reading teachers and many others take advantage of this excellent resource. So what’s new? Here’s one example:
“The roiling waters of the American newspaper industry finally caught up with the San Antonio Express-News in 2007.
In March, we unveiled a jazzy, new Page 1 design and local news focus; in April, we downsized the Sunday TV book; in May, the Business section was redesigned and market listings were reduced; and this month, we announced the Express-News won’t be available in some 30 South and Central Texas counties in 2008. An option for readers there, and students in the Newspapers In Education program, is what we call an e-edition, an online version of the Express-News.” (Bob Richter/San Antonio Express-News)
The result was expected…there were dissenters. But the age of some of the dissenters suprised columnist Richter. Journalism students at San Antonio Christian High School want their print newspaper – not the electronic version.
“”Not only should the Express(-News) keep its students in mind while making such rash decisions as taking the newspaper out of our classrooms, but it should also value itself as well,” wrote Gretchen Mahan, editor of the school’s slick monthly, The Revelation, in a letter.”
A half dozen teachers on the listserve chimed in with their feedback…from suggesting schools find supporters who will donate subscriptions to others who said that even with donated subscriptions they cannot receive the newspaper because the papers have decided to go with the e-subscription/edition for NIE.
Now the underlying reason for this change is pretty obvious…financial. Newspapers can’t afford to keep spewing out expensive paper editions when they can just forward a URL. But kids – J-kids especially – have a lot in common with the older generations. They like the feel of something real in their hands – something they can show and share. And as a teacher, I’ll tell you it’s a whole lot easier to give everyone a print paper and direct them to read certain articles or analyse the layout of the paper than to cram a class of twenty on four computers.
I hear the angst of the J teachers, some of whom think this trend towards e-papers can be turned around. This unfortunately is not a trend anymore. It is an avalanche. The problem for newspapers (and other media) is not whether they are going online…but whether they can survive and ride it out or whether they will be sucked under the raging forces and die.